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Save Sir Tim Birkin’s Bentley Blower!

People of the UK, your country needs you! A classic pre-war Bentley racing car is at risk, and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is find the money to save it.

Word reached today that Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has taken the decision of placing a temporary export bar on this particular car: a 1929 ‘Bentley Blower’, as driven by one of the original Bentley Boys, Sir Henry Birkin (or ‘Tiger Tim’).

It was the same car that famously sold at auction last year for just over £5m, made of proper materials like wood, steel, and myrrh. Probably. It was the same car that ‘Tiger Tim’ set a lap record in at the Brooklands Outer Circuit in 1931, hitting a top speed of 137mph.

Sir Tim’s Bentley was of course, based on the classic Blower, with a 4.5-litre supercharged engine developing around 240bhp - high power indeed for those days - converted to become one of the fastest racing cars in the UK at the time.

Now, here’s where it gets a bit complicated. For anything as old and important as this Bentley, an application for export has to be made. This means the Arts Council England will assess the item on three criteria - dubbed the Waverley criteria - and they’re quite interesting.

First, they have to see if the item is “so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune”, second, “is it of outstanding aesthetic importance”, and third, “is it of outstanding significance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history”.

So why the export bar? A spokesperson for the Arts Council couldn’t comment, but we assume the person who bought the car at auction last year is abroad, applied for an export licence, and brought the Blower to the Council’s attention. Thus, as long as someone in the UK stumps up the amount paid for it at auction - in this case just over £5m - then the Blower stays.

Ed Vaizey, UK Culture Minister, said: “It would be a tremendous loss to the nation if this wonderful car, that so beautifully epitomises the passion and glamour of motor racing in 1930s Britain, were to be exported overseas. I hope that a UK buyer can be found in the time now available so we can keep this magnificent piece of British racing history in the UK.”

We’re inclined to agree. You have until 31st October to find £5,149,800, or at least express a “serious intention to raise funds”, extending the export bar until 31st May 2014.

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